Don’t use January to beat yourself up

Guestpost by Katy on Jan 20th

Huge salad © by blmurch, used under Creative Commons license.

January always seems to be about making new starts. Quitting things, cutting down on things, doing more of other things…I, of course, thought I was above falling for the hype. I'm an Offbeat Homie, I don't need to buy your exercise video just because it's January! Obviously.

But, to be honest, 2012 looks like it's going to be a big year for me. My first PhD performance review, a life-changing research trip abroad to plan, several articles to finish up and get published, and the spectre of job applications looming somewhere in the late summer. Having mentally dismissed a lot of this stuff until "after Christmas," I wasn't surprised that New Year's was when I started to feel under a lot of pressure.

I should have realised it was time to tone it down, though, when I cried because I burned some cheese-on-toast. I burned our dinner, so I must be an incompetent loser! Then I was feeling bad about not spending enough time with my family over Christmas. Then I was ranting about not having saved up enough money this year, and picturing a life of Oliver-Twist-poverty when my spending caught up with me.

Then I said something about my weight, and needing to cut down on all the chocolate, when my boyfriend finally snapped. "What are you talking about? You're eating a salad!"

"Yes, I'm eating a salad right now. But I mean generally."

"You're being so hard on yourself at the moment. Really, you're beating yourself up about so many things simultaneously, you need to calm down."

Wow. Reality check. Sometimes you need someone close to you to point out the bad habits you're getting into, and the man was right. I'd thought I was feeling under pressure about work — both present and future — but it had gone way beyond that. New-Years-itis had flooded my system and made me feel inadequate about EVERYTHING. Suddenly 2012 was the year when not only did I need to move abroad, write a PhD and get a job, I also needed to be a domestic goddess, a wonderful daughter, a millionaire, and a stone lighter.

I've realised that this isn't possible, and it isn't healthy. But more than that, New-Years-itis was making me forget about the great stuff I've done, the stuff I'm good at, the stuff I like about myself. And that should be just as important at the beginning of a new year as the new, exciting changes I'm going to make and the fresh experiences I'm going to have.

So, to my Homies: make some plans, maybe even some resolutions. But don't make 2012 the year you undo the mistakes of 2011 — also make it the year you carry on being awesome. Because, let's face it, you all rocked 2011.

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About Katy

Katy is a PhD student who likes to cook, knit and travel round Europe seeing obscure old stuff.